Can animals own the copyright to their selfies?
That's now up to a federal appeals court to decide.
On Wednesday, the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals questioned lawyers in a 2015 case surrounding a macaque monkey named Naruto who took selfies using British nature photographer David Slater's camera during a 2011 trip to Indonesia. PETA sued Slater and self-publishing company Blurb, arguing the monkey owned the copyright to the photos. It wants to administer all proceeds for the benefit of the monkey.
Slater says the copyright for the photos, which are held by his company Wildlife Personalities, should be honored worldwide.
Last year, a federal judge ruled that the monkey didn't own the copyright to the photos. Now, a three-judge panel in San Francisco is asking PETA's attorney why the group should represent the monkey's interests.
Attorney Angela Dunning, who represents Blurb, said they're not concerned about the case being retried, and that they feel optimistic. She said the court made it clear that it was going to either affirm the district court's dismiss order or vacate its decision and dismiss on the grounds that PETA can't serve as a next friend.
"We'd like for the case to be over at this point," Dunning said.
PETA general counsel Jeff Kerr said the law makes it clear that the copyright belongs to the author, who in this case was Naruto.
"If this was any other photographer, there would be no question about entitlement to copyright," Kerr said. "There's no valid reason to exclude Naruto from copyright simply because he's not a human being."
Update, July 13 at 9:55 a.m. PT: Adds comment from Jeff Kerr.
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